"Once a commodity is available legally it can be controlled sensibly. You can’t control something that’s illegal to start with," said David Biggs. File photo: Elaine Thompson / AP
I read with interest that the Canadian Senate had passed a bill legalising the use of cannabis. The bill now needs to be approved by the Canadian House of Assembly for it to become law.

We are not talking about cannabis for medical use here. This is about “recreational use”. It’s about dagga, weed, pot, grass, boom, the stuff many people smoke to relieve the misery of everyday life.

If the Canadian government passes the law, Canada will be the first G5 country to allow free use of the weed, legalising an industry worth about $4.5 billion a year.

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There will, of course, be the usual loud protests and cries of horror about “turning the country into a nation of drug addicts”, because people tend to dislike change.

I believe it’s a good move. Once a commodity is available legally it can be controlled sensibly. You can’t control something that’s illegal to start with.

Look at the strict laws governing the use of tobacco in this country. We accept that smoking is bad for us, but we now have rules saying every packet of cigarettes must carry a health warning, and nobody may smoke in a public area or in a vehicle with children in it. It may not be glamorised in advertisements. You may not use tobacco products to sponsor sports events.

The result is that smoking is no longer an acceptable, macho activity. It’s furtive now, rather like farting in public.

Once the Canadians legalise cannabis they can impose a tax on it (like they do on tobacco and alcohol) and legislate where it may or may not be smoked.

Cannabis farms will provide legitimate employment and there will be jobs packaging and processing cannabis cigarettes. Maybe there will be laws about health warning notices on packages.

Another point to consider is that anything traded illegally can demand ridiculously high prices, so it’s an invitation to criminals to exploit it. Make it freely available and there’s not much point in fighting gang wars about who may sell it and where.

If you can buy the stuff at your local café without having to dodge bullets there’s no point in supporting your neighbourhood gangsters.

If it becomes legal in Canada I don’t think there will be a huge upsurge in dope smoking. Well, maybe while it’s a novelty, but it will soon be another ho-hum commodity like biscuits or butter.

I am not saying I approve of cannabis smoking any more than I approve of tobacco smoking, but I’m in no position to be judgemental.

I heartily approve of recreational alcohol use and it’s probably just as dangerous as tobacco or dagga.

Last Laugh

A young reporter was determined to get a scoop, so when he saw a crowd of people milling about at the side of the road he pushed his way through, only to be stopped by a policeman.

“Sorry, sir, you can’t come in here. This is an accident scene.”

Eager to get in, the reporter shouted: “Let me through. I am the victim’s son.” The crowd parted to let him through and reveal that a donkey had been hit by a lorry.

* Biggs writes a daily column, "Tavern of the Seas" for the Cape Argus newspaper.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

Cape Argus